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Best Free Shows at Summerfest 2013
Summerfest can be a challenge for the indecisive. We guide you toward this year's best free shows.

With 11 days, 11 stages and literally hundreds of bands, Summerfest is a gift for music lovers, but a curse for the indecisive. We’ve scoured the schedule to determine what we believe are the very best shows happening at this year’s “free” stages, so all you have to do is get through the gate and blindly surrender yourself to our knowledge and taste. Though, as it stands, our list still forces you to choose between “Hot In Here” and “Jessie’s Girl” on July 5. We can’t make all your decisions for you.

P.O.S. at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 28

If Stefon Alexander (better known as P.O.S.) makes it to the stage Friday afternoon, he’ll have already surpassed expectations. The Minneapolis-based rapper skipped the Milwaukee stop on the Doomtree (a seven-member creative collective of which he’s part) tour two years ago to witness the birth of his child and was forced to cancel a Turner Hall show last November because he needed a kidney transplant. Healthy and free of family commitments, the trendsetting emcee – known for his smart lyrics and genre-crossing collaborations with the likes of William Elliott Whitmore and Bon Iver magnate Justin Vernon – makes a long-awaited Brew City appearance on the wings of 2012’s We Don’t Even Live Here and to set the table for Rhymesayers Entertainment labelmates Brother Ali and Atmosphere. (TM)

PHOX at US Cellular Connection Stage, 4:15 p.m. on Friday, June 28

People talk about PHOX like a local treasure, and for good reason. The Madison folk pop troupe has jaw-dropping talent and ambition to match, along with an indescribable aura of destiny. They’re riding a wave of positive buzz from SXSW, and recently released a mind-bending album/short film called Confetti. Catch them while they’re still ours. (JG)

Dr. John at Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 30

Heavily influenced by his hometown of New Orleans, Dr. John’s rare psychedelia is unique among its peers of the ’60s and ’70s, steeped as it is in New Orleans funk and a genuine sense of voodoo that makes his debut album Gris-Gris sound fresh (and very strange) even 45 years later. At 72, he is still working. Remarkably, his 30th album – last year’s Locked Down – is widely considered one of his best, thanks to some help from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. (JG)

Midnight Reruns at K-Nation/Cascio Interstate Music Stage, 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3

A lot of bands pride themselves on “old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll,” but few do it as well as Milwaukee’s own Midnight Reruns. Yet to release a proper full-length album, the band has built a reputation the old-fashioned way, too: with an electrifying live show. Their headlining slot at the K-Nation/Cascio Interstate stage is well-deserved and a must-see for local music nerds. (JG)

MGMT at Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3

It was hard to go anywhere in 2008-09 without encountering an MGMT song. The band’s breakthrough album Oracular Spectacular gave us hits like “Kids” and “Time To Pretend,” which could be heard everywhere from frat parties to political ads. They always seemed a little too weird for the mainstream, though, and they proved it with follow-up Congratulations, a good album that lacked the obvious hits of Oracular. The band will release its next album soon, and this could be your first chance to hear what they’ve been working on. (JG)

Rick Springfield at Uline Warehouse, 10 p.m. on Friday, July 5

After he gave the world “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981, Rick Springfield could have thrown in the towel and retired to the halls of rock ’n’ roll legend, but the generous Aussie just kept giving and giving. His album Working Class Dog spawned “Jessie’s Girl” and nine other rock anthems; not long after, he captivated stay-at-home moms everywhere as the hunky Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. He has unjustly hovered near the periphery of pop culture, never earning last-name credentials like Springsteen or Petty, but has still amassed a notoriously devoted fanbase. (JG)

Nelly at Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m. on Friday, July 5

Nelly was vaulted to international notoriety at the turn of the century when he treated the world to a lesson in Country Grammar. The St. Louis rapper’s hit solo debut was rife with catchy demographic-sewing singles like “E.I.” and “Ride with Me,” among others. The hits kept coming for Nelly, as his six albums (many of which went gold or platinum) that followed garnered regular radio play and use in movies and television. His latest, M.O., features collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Trey Songz and Nelly… Furtado, that is. (TM)

The Championship at K-Nation Cascio Interstate Music Stage, 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 6

Milwaukee stalwarts The Championship have been a staple of the local scene for the past decade. The molasses-soaked timbre of bandleader Joe Crockett and a vast menagerie of timeless folk rock standards has forged a unique niche that paved the way for area acts like Field Report and Hugh Bob & The Hustle, among others. Though the band sat at the brink of dissolving a few years back, Crockett and longtime drummer Travis Doar recruited new members to fill out the lineup for downtrodden 2012 reprise EP High Feather, some of the band’s best work to date. (TM)

Jimmy Eat World at BMO Harris Pavilion, 8 p.m., on Sunday July 7

Emo royalty Jimmy Eat World first gained a cult following in the late ’90s with Static Prevails and Clarity – the latter of which featured breakout hit “Lucky Denver Mint.” But it was 2001’s Bleed American (later named Jimmy Eat World following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001) that rendered Jimmy Eat World a household name, largely thanks to “Bleed American,” “Sweetness” and massive radio hit “The Middle.” Since, the band’s traction has slowed a tad, but the seminal indie rockers have managed four albums, including Damage, which was released in June. (TM)

Bad Religion at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, 10 p.m. on Sunday, July 7

A multi-million dollar, heavily promoted behemoth of commerce that is Summerfest seems like an odd occasion to see Bad Religion, a veteran punk rock band unwilling to mince its political and, of course, religious views. But the L.A. band’s solid 30- year-plus track record and immeasurable influence on a genre warrants a headliner slot on The Big Gig’s closing night. The performance marks a homecoming of sorts for Bad Religion front man-turned author and UCLA professor Greg Graffin, who was born in Racine and spent his early childhood in Milwaukee. (TM)

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Mikky B Posted: 6/27/2013 9:44:05 PM
 0   2    

I recall fifty cent beers & paying only a few dollars to get in. ALL acts were free. I wish it were as it once was. Now before I've even walked through the door, I've paid $20 to park my car. In MY world, that's still a lot of money. Never been inside the marcus.
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